The future of work is an ever-evolving landscape. With the pandemic forcing many businesses to shift to remote work and new technologies emerging every day, it’s more important than ever to be adaptable and willing to experiment. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of experimentation and iteration in navigating the future of work, using Corinne Murray’s experience as the founder of Agate, a future work consulting studio based in Brooklyn, NY, as a guide.
The Benefits of Experimentation
The pandemic neutralized nearly all business benchmarks and best practices, and companies have the opportunity to reimagine how work gets done. Still, the perception of risk and failure is stronger than ever. Because of these fears, most executives are inclined to stick with what they know, even if it doesn’t fit the current moment. Adopting an experimental mindset at the company level is no small task and can backfire if too much is tried too quickly without the proper safeguards in place.
So, how do we make testing and experimentation less disruptive and more approachable to skeptics? First, uncover what’s broken. It could be a digital tool, a particular workplace design, a communication style, an onboarding process, or any seemingly small things that can have significant consequences if left unaddressed. Wherever the frictions are – the problems that get in the way of good work getting done – you will be sure to find a bevy of low-stakes problems with high-reward solutions that will feel like training wheels but will provide significant changes to the employee experience at your company.
Rinse and repeat on a biannual basis with input from your employees. Before long, you’ll find yourself in a co-created future that works for everyone and everything, including your bottom line. Experimenting in small doses reduces risk and business disruption and allows companies to pivot when needed. Final decisions are irrelevant in this model. Decisions evolve and change in step with the information and context. This agility and dynamism is the new business resiliency and stability.
If there’s no such thing as a final decision, there’s also no such thing as failure but, instead, something that needs iteration. To quote Thomas Edison, when asked about his 10,000 attempts to refine the lightbulb and if he’d failed, he challenged the question with this remark,
“I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work.”
Each experiment aims to fail your way into a better position than where you started. The only actual difference between experimentation and failure is your ability to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and what you’ll change for the next try. When you think of experimentation as progress and forward motion rather than the mishaps in a mad scientist’s laboratory, experimentation doesn’t sound so intimidating.
Iteration is Key
If poorly executed, iteration can feel like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Iteration should never feel reactive or like a knee-jerk. Iteration is what Thomas Edison did to refine the lightbulb, carefully documenting what elements worked and what didn’t until that 10,000th test that resulted in success. Like athletes who have their head “on a swivel,” constantly assessing the environment, identifying tells and patterns to decide what move(s) are best for lasting success and business resilience.
Collaboration is Key
Collaboration is another important aspect of navigating the future of work. Murray notes that executives who partner with their employees generate new ideas and gain fresh perspectives on how the day-to-day operations of a business can change for the better, not just for employees but the quality of work and the development of new business opportunities. By leveraging the expansive qualifications of your workforce and trusting their perspectives, companies can create new and innovative solutions to today’s challenges.
In conclusion, experimentation and iteration are critical to navigating the ever-changing landscape of the future of work. By testing out new ideas, embracing failure, iterating over time, and collaborating with others, you can stay ahead of the curve and create a business that’s agile and adaptable. Whether you’re a startup or an established business, it’s essential to be willing to experiment and iterate to create a prosperous future of work.
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